• dotNeighborhoods - October 27, 2010 Meeting Report

last modified May 5, 2012 by tomlowenhaupt

­­­­­­­­­­­The DRAFT report on the meeting is presented here.


  (Commons photo courtesy of sporkwrapper.)

The Queens Compass  
Here's a rhyming system by E. P. Butler, from the Dec 3, 1926 New York Times, that will help explain Queens' street directions:
In Queens, to find locations best
Avenues, roads and drives run west;
But ways to north or south ’tis plain
Are street or place or even lane.
While even numbers you meet
Upon the west and south of street.




































































































The dotNeighborhoods Initiative

Neighborhood Preservation Center, 232 East 11th Street­

­October 27, 2010


  • Jeremy Baron - Wikimedia-NY
  • Darold Cuba - Works with Silicon Harlem, Vice Magazine, the PR committee for Social Media Week, the Personal Democracy Forum, and maintains an interest in smart cities.
  • Jack Eichenbaum - The Queens Historian, founder of GISMO, professor of Geography. The GISMO organization advocated for a central IT organization which resulted in the formation of the city's DoITT.
  • Michael Johnson - Solar entrepreneur and Connecting.nyc Inc. board member
  • Richard Knipel – President, Wikimedia NY
  • William Lloyd - Wireless Coalition, representing wireless providers Sprint, T-Mobile...
  • Thomas Lowenhaupt – Meeting convener, director Connecting.nyc Inc.
  • Patti Lowenhaupt - Teaching artist / Ginger
  • Joly MacFie – Secretary and VP Internet Society-NY (ISOC)
  • Robert Pollard - Environmental activist, member CnI's Resident Advisory Network


Tom Lowenhaupt welcomed all and thanked the Neighborhood Preservation Center for the use of their wonderful facility. He noted that Shaan Kahn, director or community media for the Manhattan Borough President's office will be arriving, but later on. He also noted that an expected projector was not available, and some presentations would be handicapped.


Thomas Lowenhaupt presented an update about Connecting.nyc Inc. (CnI) and the .nyc TLD process.
  • He reported on a recent conversation with the IRS on Connecting.nyc Inc.'s 501(c)(3) application. Hopefully, after one more submission of information, the desired tax-deductible status will be approved. The problem in acquiring this status has been the indefinite nature of the ultimate plan for .nyc at ICANN, the City of New York, and thereby at Connecting.nyc Inc.
  • The city issued an RFP for assistance with filing a TLD application with ICANN last October. It received 3 or more proposals in December but nothing has been heard about the proposals or the evaluations.
  • City Council member Gale Brewer mentioned the dotNeighborhood / NYCwiki.org initiative in her latest newsletter.
  • ICANN hopes to issue a final TLD application in December at this point, with applications received in mid 2011.
  • The most significant development since the last meeting on dotNeighborhoods was the collaboration with Wikimedia NY and ISOC NY on the NYCwiki.org effort. 
Richard Knipel is president of Wikimedia New York City, the local chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation which bring us Wikipedia. Richard spoke on the NYCwiki, the collaboration between his organization, the Internet Society-NY, and CnI.
  • It will have neighborhoods portals. For example, in Harlem there might be sections for environment, education, culture, etc. See http://nycwiki.org/wiki/Main_Page. for the main neighborhood's wiki page.
  • On that wiki the neighborhood names in blue have had some info added, those in red have not yet been started. There's a lot of experimentation at this point.
  • Speak Up New York - In collaboration with the Manhattan Borough President's office, Wikimedia is putting up a registry of community groups on the NYCwiki. They are hoping to have 50 community groups by Friday, each with geographic indications. The Manhattan BP is looking for 500 community organizations by January 1.  
  • There was discussion about the transwiki software for moving info from Wikipedia to the NYCwiki. Joly MacFie said full implementation presents some challenges.
  • The thinking now is that by encouraging short articles - on buildings, organizations, historic sites - it is less intimidating to contributors.
  • Placing a directory on the wiki was suggested by Pollard.
  • Mapping is important with Joly indicating that the quest for geographic identity provided the origin of the NYCwiki.
  • Commercial Uses of the NYCwiki - Richard gave an example of organizations, such as Wikimedia NYC, and their placement on the NYCwiki. Robert Pollard was concerned about self promotion by commercial organizations: What is the rule on using the wiki to feed people to a commercial enterprise? With reference to the RSS feeds that have been suggested as a empowerment feature for bodegas and other local enterprise, he asked if it was not the big firms that are most capable of doing this - Whole Foods, Trader Joe, etc. Guidelines are needed.
  • While there is great operational flexibility in the operation of the NYCwiki, technically, a wiki is somewhat limiting. Issues should be addressed organically, as they arise (Joly). 
  • On maps, Richard mentioned OpenStreetMaps, an open source map that had desirable engagement features. He gave the example of a participatory "mapping party" endeavor as a good way to gain an in-depth view and engage the community. Its a two step process at this point that begins with people walking down a street making notes on [paper (directly into mobile phones at a later date), with a second step, data entry.
  • Another map possibility is TOPP's abandoned street map project.
  • Joly noted that AOL's Patch.com and and others are focusing on hyperlocal news and ours should be on heritage, rather than directory. With neighborhoods, our approach has been top down, and we should be more bottom up. Tom pointed out that the bottom up was allowed and facilitated by the nature of he wiki. And that the neighborhood names effort was an attempt to make a point to city officials about the opportunity enabled by the neighborhood name-set.
  • Rules on notability requirements are less stringent than on Wikipedia.  
  • Wikimedia recently received permission to use the Red Hat facilities in downtown Manhattan for training. They are planning on 2 people per computer, so 36 people per class. 
Jack Eichenbaum spoke on why Queens had neighborhood names in their addresses, the role of neighborhoods, and provided several juicy tidbits on GIS and related issues.
  • On Queens neighborhood names... When the city expanded to the 5 boroughs In 189, Manhattan had a street grid as a result of the Commissioner's Plan of 1811, with the west Bronx part of that grid. Brooklyn had several historic street systems that were rectified by the time 1898 came around. Staten Island was very rural and had few address problems. Queens was the big problem. In 1898 it consisted of 5 major centers, e.g., Jamaica, Flushing, Astoria, 15 places that grew up around LIRR stations, a city... There was much overlap in street naming with many of these developed areas having their Main, Washington, or Walnut Street: there might have been 5 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Streets, Walnut Streets... In 1907 a new law required the elimination of duplicate names with the  fix they adopted resulting in today's confusing and redundant 61st Road, Street, Avenue, Lane... It took until the mid-1920's before Queens' streets were rectified, eliminating the mess for delivering mail and finding addresses. In the interim, in order to receive your mail you needed to enter a neighborhood name thereby indicating which of the several 1st Streets. In the 1950's we began using postal zones, (prior to ZIP codes which arrived in the 1960's), and neighborhood names became superfluous, but were by then ingrained.
  • On maps... When making maps of neighborhoods you'll get a very different map depending upon why you're drawing the map. For example, the Department of Finance needed a map of neighborhoods and needed to draw lines. Embedded neighborhoods are something we can learn from. When Jack was at the NYC department of Finance, they made up neighborhood and sub neighborhood maps. Thus they had an East and West Flatbush. Chinatown is defined by the ethnic group. Little Italy is now a first floor neighborhood - with "Chinatown" on the second floor. The city's Health, City Planning, and Finance Departments each has their own neighborhood descriptions.
  • References... Two books on the Neighborhoods of Brooklyn (John Manbeck Brooklyn) and Queens (by Claudia Gryvatz Copquin) would provide useful information for the NYCwiki. See also Wikipedia on Queens neighborhoods.
  • Gentrification... Over the past 30 years gentrification line has followed the L train east.
  • Two types of maps...  those like Google and property maps. Surveying errors make them different.
  • No, Queensnorth... Each borough has its own Bureau of Topography with different idea of what is north. 
  • On neighborhoods... Neighborhoods focus people of local issues. But this parochialism keeps people apart, especially in Queens. There is no center to Queens.

Discussions / Comments

  • Robert Pollard - Suggested that there be a PlaNYC page within the NYCwiki. And that within this there should be a participatory process. Discussion with Lowenhaupt pointed to possibility that this participatory process needed to be an other-than-wiki software layer. As well, Robert suggested that we tie in with the Manhattan Borough President Speak-up New York. People should do ares of interests as opposed to neighborhoods. Start with the small stuff. Then go to aggregation. In connection with PlaNYC Robert is looking more at Connecting NYC rather than Connecting .nyc. He is developing recommendations for digital New York, providing support at community and other levels on improving digital literacy. 
  • Joly noted the need for training for the mobile world where it is seemingly more difficult putting up some information - creating an "app" or application rather than a HTML page.
  • Editor vs. Contributor - In Wikipedia everyone is considered a editor.
  • Michael Johnson informed the group about a mobile iPhone app NearestWiki. With it you point your mobile and see wiki's in the direction it is pointing. See video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCm9PZfT-YY. This might provide a way for people to find our wiki.
  • Jeremy brought the Google Goggles app to the attention of the attendees. What role might it play in a city wiki? It uses GPS and matches the camera picture with that in Google Street View, offering links to nearby (paying) resources.
  • Michael Johnson wants a civic app providing easy access to building information: Who owns that building?
  • Joly mentioned a metaphor that has the public involved as gardeners of wiki content. Rules calling for a neutral point of view were suitable for maintaining a measure of order.

  • Joly mentioned that the market takes care of all sorts of things these days – there seems to be an app for everything. However, local history is something dotNeighborhood residents can pool their information. The depth of local knowledge can be the killer app for dotNeighborhoods.

  • Tom believes that the long term need filled by dotNeighborhoods is local communication, that there is no central place where neighbors can focus on local issues. But on Transition Day (when we change from the .com Internet to the .nyc net) residents will intuitively turn to their dotNeighborhoods.

  • Richard said “by the community for the community” and that a business directory can be put on OpenStreetMap.org, an open source alternative to Google maps.

  • All agreed we need to build a relationship with existing institutions. Jack stated that the Borough Presidents were likely supporters. 
  • Joly, Tom, and Robert discussed their views of the role of a wiki in serving a neighborhood. Robert indicated that it is important to get people to express their different views for the 'hood, and that good local knowledge only arises when all these views are expressed and considered.
  • Joly sees local heritage as the key element of a wiki, there's a gap and we should focus on this. Get kids involved. 
  • Richard stated there are good wiki's some focus on heritage. Davis, California is a good example. They are creating a specialized local wiki software focused on the needs of small cities.
  • Jack said U.S. is lagging from the rest of the world in moving to metropolitan government. Metro Tokyo has 35,000,000 residents. America is stuck with limited and ineffective urban governments. Big cities with strong local governance entities seems to work everywhere else. In these, more money is controlled by the local than here in New York.
  • Tom said he was talking with his council members about gathering and reserving local civic names. Who can sponsor this effort. Municipal Art Society and Place Matters were suggested. Perhaps the Borough Presidents could also help. 
This report was completed with the assistance of an audio file provided by Joly MacFie. It is available upon request. Thanks Joly.

Recent BIT.LYS

The following link to some of our recent civic name activities.

Related Resources

Key .nyc Pages